Self-Injury Intervention Strategies

Social Worker Resource
August 29, 2012 — 2,445 views  
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Although people inclined to inflict harm on others pose a serious and potentially devastating threat, those bent on injuring themselves can be even more difficult to treat. Even when sequestered and carefully monitored, a motivated self-injurer can find ways to hurt him or herself, which creates anxiety, fear and even potential legal repercussions for those tasked with providing care.

Despite the difficulty, there are some proven methods to help caregivers and social workers intervene in cases of self-injury. Although each case is different, and personal, individualized treatment is crucial, these tactics can help reduce the severity and consequences of self-injury.


The first step any social worker should take in reducing the impact of self-injury is to identify it as a problem and assess its particular form and patterns. There are many degrees of self-inflicted harm, and proper treatment hinges on a caregiver's ability to diagnose the severity and type of wound.

It is important to closely examine each incidence of damage to garner as much information as possible about the underlying disorder. Some people who engage in self-injury do so with the intent to cause serious and permanent damage (or even death) to themselves, while others do so out of compulsion or displaced emotion. Diagnosing the severity of the harm, and its potential for enduring consequences, can help you craft a fruitful treatment strategy.


Once a clinical identification has been made, it is time to enact measures to manage the impulses. At first, this revolves around simple tactics for treating and healing existing wounds. If these sessions of self-injury threaten to endure, it is vital to find ways of not only mending the damages but preventing further examples by limiting access to tools and opportunities for future harm.

Once successful, the true work of understanding the individual's specific incarnation of the disorder and treating it can begin.

Broader awareness

Although attention on an individual level is extremely important, there is a more general need for raising awareness and disseminating useful information, especially to those who exhibit at-risk symptoms.

This process can take a variety of forms, but almost always revolves around explaining the traits of self-injury and explicating possible repercussions. Working with professionals who have extensive experience with self-harm and individuals who have dealt with or are dealing with the disorder itself is important. This approach can help you gain a more thorough understanding of how to explain it to others and encourage the detection of early warning signs. 

Social Worker Resource